Autumn may be my favorite season of the year, but it’s closely followed by the Christmas holiday season as my favorite holiday season. As childhood memories go, it is the holiday that has the most memories and the most meaning. Of course, it is nearly impossible to think of Christmas without thinking of Christmas trees. Growing up, we only ever had artificial trees. Then after visiting a friend in England over the holidays before the millennium who had a real tree, I began my own new tradition the following year of having a real Christmas tree…and have never looked back!
Admittedly, real Christmas trees aren’t without their hassles, between finding a good one, to getting sticky tree sap all over your hands stringing lights and hanging ornaments, to trees drying out early, to eventually getting them back out of the house without shedding all of the remaining needles all over!
But all of that is worth the hassle when your house is filled with the aroma of a real Christmas tree.
Every year is a new memory as no two trees are the same. One year you may have a tall skinny tree, the next a short fat one. Another year may yield a full, dense tree, while the next might require tweaking the positioning to hide the barest spot to the back and judicious efforts to place ornaments to fill the remaining gaps!
And this is part of the magic and the memories to be cherished for the future.
If you’ve never experienced a real Christmas tree, perhaps this is the year.
To help you on your journey, whether you are looking to go whole-hog and cut your own Christmas tree, or are happy to find a pre-cut tree, we’ve compiled a list of local Christmas tree farms below.
If it is your first real Christmas tree, I would suggest starting with a pre-cut tree, just to simplify things.
And one of the benefits of “living out in the sticks” is that if you are wondering, “are there real Christmas trees near me?” The answer is yes. In fact, you can find Christmas trees on sale near you just about anywhere in McHenry County.
Do you own a Christmas tree farm or know of one that is operating this year that isn’t on our list? Please let us know or add it to our Directory or Event Calendar so that we can add it here…it’s free!
Hours and inventory often change, so please check the websites or even call ahead to the tree farms you intend to visit.
Cary Christmas Tree Farms
Address: 309 Three Oaks Rd, Cary, IL 60013
Directory Listing: Pine-Apple Farm
Harvard Christmas Tree Farms
Ben’s Christmas Tree Farm
Address: 7719 Ryan Rd, Harvard, IL 60033
Directory Listing: Ben’s Christmas Tree Farm
Conifera Tree Farm
Address: 5810 Schulz Rd, Harvard, IL 60033
Directory Listing: Conifera Tree Farm
McHenry Christmas Tree Farms
Bill’s Friendly Evergreen Tree Farm
Address: 3102 Miller Rd, McHenry, IL 60051
Directory Listing: Bill’s Friendly Evergreen Tree Farm
Pioneer Tree Farm
Address: 4614 Pioneer Rd, McHenry, IL 60050
Directory Listing: Pioneer Tree Farm
Spring Grove Christmas Tree Farms
Richardson Christmas Tree Farm
Address: 9407 Richardson Rd, Spring Grove, IL 60081
Directory Listing: Richardson Christmas Tree Farm
Union Christmas Tree Farms
Triple K Pines
Address: 15217 Hemmingsen Rd, Union, IL 60180
Directory Listing: Triple K Pines
Woodstock Christmas Tree Farms
Grandpa’s Christmas Tree Farm
Address: 13616 IL Rte 176, Woodstock, IL 60098
Directory Listing: Grandpa’s Christmas Tree Farm
Moehling Christmas Tree Farm
Address: 10904 Bull Valley Rd, Woodstock, IL 60098
Directory Listing: Moehling Christmas Tree Farm
Oney’s Tree Farm
Address: 16608 Rte 14, Woodstock, IL 60098
Directory Listing: Oney’s Tree Farm
Regardless of whether you want to cut your own Christmas tree or prefer to buy a pre-cut tree, there are a few things to figure out, especially if this is your first real Christmas tree.
Measurements and Space
First, think about where you want to place your Christmas tree.
Best if you can avoid sources of heat…so away from the fireplace, away from a sunny window if possible, and at least consider shutting off or covering nearby heat vents.
As you will need to keep it watered, you’ll want to make sure the tree stand or auto-waterer is easily accessible.
Get out the tape measure and record the available height, as well as distance on the remaining open sides. Once you have the maximum distances, you can start to scale those numbers back…the tree stand will raise up the bottom, need room to spare at the top for the tree topper, and room around the sides/back for ornaments and “breathing” space.
What Type of Tree?
Like most things, you have choices to make when it comes to real Christmas trees. And like most things, there is often a trade-off between quality and cost. Many of the tree farms above include information on their websites about the types of fresh trees they have and their pros and cons.
If you’d like to do a little of your own research, Good Housekeeping has this helpful article.
Ultimately, it may come down to what is available, so create a priority list of 2-3 tree types, and write them down to avoid hassles trying to remember or arguing about it later.
Get Your Christmas Tree Stand First
It’s important that you get your tree stand before you bring your new tree home.
It’s also important to make sure that your tree stand can support the size and weight of the tree you intend to purchase. But bigger isn’t necessarily better if the trunk support screws won’t close down enough to secure the tree (I’ve used some scrap wood to shim it up before).
It’s also important to make sure that the stand has a large enough water reservoir, between a quart at least, if not a gallon.
For your first real Christmas tree, you might want to start with a sturdy plastic stand. Once you are sure you like having real trees and have a general idea of the size you like, then you can invest in a more durable and/or decorative stand.
Christmas Tree Watering Systems
Real trees require real upkeep, primarily in the way of watering. In fact, a good estimate is about a quart of water per inch of stem diameter per day. Especially at the beginning, your tree may require a gallon of water a day.
So, in addition to a good stand with a sizable reservoir, you might want to look into some of the automatic watering systems, or even make your own DIY version. This isn’t a set it and forget though.
Tree Pad/Mat Floor Protector
Tree stands can break over time, or get overfilled. A little insurance here goes a long way. Invest in, even an inexpensive disposable, protective tree pad, will help absorb excess water. These feature a water barrier to protect your floor.
Tree Disposal Bag
When it comes to real Christmas trees, it’s always good to have your exit strategy sorted beforehand. These large tree disposal bags are priceless, especially if you have a tree that dries out early and starts shedding needles at the slightest movement.
Personal Tip: I cut a hole in the middle of the bag, open and roll it up like a sock, and then center it over the tree stand before placing the tree in the stand. The tree skirt (see below) hides it from view.
When it’s time to take the tree down, after removing lights and ornaments, we pull the bag up from the bottom to the top of the tree, and then tie it shut. I usually cover the wet trunk with a plastic bag to avoid dripping water on the floor. Once you get the tree to the curb, be sure to remove the plastic bags and dispose of them separately.
You don’t have to have your tree skirt beforehand, but it doesn’t hurt. But do consider whether you want to use a nice decorative or family heirloom tree skirt, or want to buy something else. Your tree skirt may get wet and will certainly, over the years at least, get some tree sap on it.
See, this is part of the adventure!
Make your list of what you’ll need. If you are cutting your own, do you have a tree saw, or can the tree farm provide one? If you are bringing one, check what they recommend or even allow.
Will the tree farm bag it, or do you want to bring a tarp, something to wrap it with, or transport it bare? Do you want to lay a barrier between the tree and the roof of your vehicle? Do you have twine to tie it, or does the tree farm provide? Figure all this out before you head out!
Tree Time Tips
The magic moment has arrived! Once again, before you head to the farm, here are some tips to help you along the way.
If you are the type that likes to have your Christmas tree up right after Thanksgiving, then an artificial Christmas tree may be the better option. Once a real tree has been cut down, the clock starts counting down.
Some tree species might last longer and some may hold their needles longer, but in general, you are looking at a 2-4 week window, and as you may want to keep your tree up through the new year, later may be better…but of course, don’t wait too long or all the good trees may be gone!
Dress Appropriately & Take Your Time
Chances are, this will take longer than you expect, especially if you are cutting your own tree. Dress appropriately, in layers, and don’t forget that the tree farm may be more open to the elements and colder than where your home is located.
Instead of your nice leather gloves, bring some leather work gloves that you don’t mind getting tree sap on. Likewise, consider the coat and clothes you wear.
Take your time. Make this part of the experience. You may not want to go for the first tree you see. Enjoy a hot cider or cocoa and stroll around. Is there a hayride, gift shop, chance for the kids to see Santa?
Check for Freshness
Firmly tug some of the needles…do they hold firm or fall off? If it is a pre-cut tree, pick it up and tap it against the ground a little…do needles hold, a few fall off, or do they rain down around you? Does it look green and healthy, or yellow and brown in spots?
If you do opt for cutting your own Christmas tree, try cutting it as low to the ground as you can. This helps with continued tree growth at the tree farm.
This will be the thickest part of the trunk for securing in your tree stand. There also may be fewer branches to remove, leaving you with more tree to enjoy.
If you have someone helping, have them grab the tree partway up to help hold it steady and also pull it a little bit away from the side you are cutting. This will help keep the tree from pinching the saw blade, making it a lot harder to cut.
Shake It Off
Remember, this tree has been outside in the elements…and possibly, until just recently, the cozy home of bugs, birds, or other critters. Give it a good shake before moving it as well as before bringing it into your house. This will also help knock off any loose needles that were going to fall off inside.
Let Them Help
By the time you are ready to go, you will probably be really ready to go. But a little more patience pays off.
If the tree farm offers assistance, whether with a tree shaker, bagging, making a fresh cut (maybe hold off on a fresh cut unless you don’t have your own saw and/or are able to get the tree up soon after), and tying it to your vehicle…take them up on it.
Get Everything in Place
Remember, a real Christmas tree, especially very large or tall ones, are considerably heavier than artificial trees.
You want to make sure that you have your protective tree pad, tree stand, tree disposal bag (if you followed my tip), and watering system if you are using one, ready and in place before you try standing up the tree.
Depending on your stand and floor, you might be able to carefully move it a little once it is up, or it might have to stay where it is. Hopefully, you can plan to move it since it may be a little easier stringing lights if you can walk around all sides.
Fresh Cut & Water
If you haven’t done a fresh cut yet, then right before you bring it inside and stand it up is ideal. Confirm the trunk size will fit your stand and remove any lower branches that absolutely must be removed.
Have your water ready, which can just be tap water. Opinions vary, but you might want to try hot water initially, which may help liquefy sap at the base. Use cool water after that though.
Make a clean, flat cut, at least 1/2″-1″ from the bottom.
Get help standing the tree up and add water. If you are using a watering system, be sure to add water in stages so you can gauge when to stop, or risk overflow.
Take a Break & Relax
Not you, the tree. You need to start checking the light strings! We actually like to let the tree acclimate to the indoor temperature overnight. This tends to give the branches a chance to relax and “unfold.”
Enjoy & Appreciate
Whether you cut your own or purchased a pre-cut Christmas tree, be sure to sit down with your beverage of choice once you are all done trimming the tree and just take in its beauty, accepting flaws and all.
And know that you’ll never have the same tree twice!
I hope this guide is useful to you, especially if real Christmas trees are a new experience for you. Good luck in your hunt for the “perfect” tree. Embrace the uniqueness and imperfection of real trees and you’ll see Christmas trees in a new light.